Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say ’this isn’t rocket science … oh wait, it actually is’. His debut fantasy novel Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) released in the U.S. on August 2.
Spiders have too many legs, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Millipedes have way more legs and they’re not the stuff of nightmare. Spiders have long articulated legs and they sit in the middle of them waiting to scurry. The horror lies in the way that they move, and the way in which they are still. Possibly, to someone lacking the gene for the primal fear we arachnophobes possess, it’s as hard to understand a fear of spiders as it is to understand a fear of table legs . . . but you guys are just wrong in the head. Every decent human is afraid of spiders. It’s in the bible somewhere. I expect.
In any event, although spiders are rightly held by honest folk to be scary, they are not particularly scary in fiction. Moreover, even with my bone-deep revulsion of the beasts I have been far more scared and more scarred by people, even the unremarkable common-or-garden school bullies of my childhood left a greater impression on me. Which brings me to my perhaps disappointing conclusion that the most chilling monsters in fiction aren’t giant arachnids, kraken from the depths, daleks, or aliens of the face-hugging kind, they’re just people. It takes imagination and understanding to be a real monster. Nasties with too many legs or too few may butcher us efficiently, or in slow bizarre fashion, each according to their kind, but what scares me most is the man next door, ordinary in all respects save that one small piece of his mind is broken. That man (or woman, or curious child) shares so much of your experience, knows how we humans work, where our horrors lie, what hurts, what humbles, what deconstructs. He comes bringing his own fears to project across the canvas of your skin. The greatest cowards can be the cruellest of creatures. And they know about the spiders.
For me Stephen King writes a good monster. I’m struggling to remember any book that’s ever made me properly scared – I’m more visual fear-wise, film is the medium for fright, but King’s IT has probably come closest. And even there it was less the psycho clown monster in the storm drains than the town bully, suffocating a dog in a discarded refrigerator, that put the chill in me. Men again. Us.
I’ve been told I write a decent horror scene but if that’s true I couldn’t really say how I do it. I guess I just try to scare myself. I put myself in the scene and say ‘what would freak me out at this point’ then do that. Except I don’t put a spider in because I can’t rely on my reader to be a wuss like me.